by Basil Yeo (@basilyeo)
With most of our production work, we often find ourselves thrust into a situation where we would have to conduct an interview with a stakeholder of the Client. It could be the Client's employees, partners or even the Client's own clients. Over the years, we have developed some experience in conducting better face-to-face interviews, and as we slowly eased into doing interviews, we have found that we have been able to extract better content which has helped us in crafting our video stories.
Here's a brief look at some of these strategies, organised into six points:
Send the brief early
It is extremely important that you work closely with the Client to finalise the topics & questions early and then ensure that the Client sends out the brief to the relevant interviewees. Unless you are shooting a live event where it is impossible to know or anticipate the person being interviewed, you should always make it a point to prepare your interviewee with prior knowledge of what is required of him/her. Oh, and no scripts please (This is explained in point 6).
When you meet the interviewee for the first time, don't be tempted to rush into the interview immediately after exchanging introductions. Take this time to build some rapport and get to know the interviewee better by asking questions about them, which might be a useful addition to whatever background knowledge you have already researched beforehand. This will also help the interviewee to trust you (the interviewer) and feel mentally settled & comfortable enough to proceed with the interview. If you make the interviewee a friend, they will treat you as one and the process will become a lot easier.
Make it a conversation
Now here's the fun part. Plain Q&A type interviews are extremely boring, and the most common way to distinguish a sharp and experienced interviewer from the rest of the pack is how they approach asking questions. An experienced interviewer will be able to weave the questions into the conversation to help ease pressure off the interviewee.
Repeat the question
The interviewer should always remind the interviewee to repeat the question in the answer. This is to help the interviewee remember what was asked, and prevent a disaster in the edit room when you realise that all your interviewee's answers were recorded without much context.
Know the subject matter
Some level of understanding of the subject matter is also the key to raising the quality of the interview. Human beings love it when someone they don't know has a slight understanding of what they do. While extensive first hand experience is not required in most cases, being able to interpret and make connections through identifiers will help a long way in getting the best out of the session.
Don't use a script
Have you ever watched someone talk on TV and felt like it was so clinically delivered that it perfectly sliced through any semblance of interest on your end? Yes, that's exactly how someone would feel if your interviewees read off a script. This would dampen any spirit and emotion in your interviewees' answers as they scramble to respond to you, read off a script and make it sound like they have emotions in their responses by varying their tonal delivery. It really does not work if you're trying to create emotional impact. Having points and specific phrases to serve as a guideline is totally okay, though.
Have you employed any of these tips while conducting interviews? Have they helped you at all? Let us know!
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